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Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024

Fighting Cancer with Styles


An original artwork by Kaylee of one of her favorite artists, Ariana Grande.

Celebration of Life for Kaylee René Campbell

Kaylee René Campbell’s birthday is Feb. 21., and this year, she would have been 21. According to Kaylee’s mom, Kim Cooper, “that is referred to as a golden birthday, when one’s age matches the day of their birth month. So, we are going to celebrate.”

The celebration is Saturday, Feb. 24, and it’s a big one! Kaylee’s mom excitedly talks about her plans for her daughter’s first birthday in heaven. “There will be Kaylee merchandise, raffle prizes, auctions, and VIP badges with QR codes to donate to St. Jude, purchase merch, and watch selections from Kaylee’s TikTok.” Kim’s stepdaughter will sing “Golden,” by Harry Styles.

When it comes to Kaylee’s merch, Kim has gone all-out. “There will be t-shirts, sweatshirts, concert-type posters, and tote bags. The T-shirt is a picture of Kaylee at one of Harry Styles’ concerts, and the setting is Harry’s House, the cover of Styles’ third album. At the concert, there was a photo booth with an upside-down version of Harry’s house with a line a mile long, but people just kept letting Kaylee go ahead of them in her wheelchair, so she was able to get a picture. Then I found one of her signatures from her high school homework, and it is on the T-shirt too. When Kaylee got out of her wheelchair to take her picture, the whole line of people cheered for her.” A portion of Kaylee’s merchandise proceeds will go to St. Jude’s Hospital.

At the age of 42, Kaylee’s father died after a six-month battle with kidney cancer.

Kim Cooper and daughter Kaylee.

It wasn’t until her uncle was diagnosed with kidney cancer that the family started to make a connection. After genetic testing, it was discovered that both brothers had the same rare hereditary form of kidney cancer, Hereditary Leiomyomatosis and Renal Cell Carcinoma (HLRCC). Kim quickly had her two older sons tested as soon as they were eligible. When Kaylee was tested, a tumor was discovered in her kidney. A trip to St. Jude’s in Memphis soon followed. The tumor was contained to the right kidney; surgery was scheduled and went well. However, at her nine-week post-op appointment, the cancer had spread to her spine, ribs, and hips. St. Jude’s, locally and in Memphis, along with the National Institute of Health (NIH), worked jointly on Kaylee’s treatment, including chemo every two weeks for a year before the chemo became ineffective. More chemo and radiation followed. Kaylee suffered from malnutrition from the nausea, eventually being hospitalized for dehydration; two weeks later, she was gone. Kaylee’s mom quickly adds, “Because of the wonderful treatment from St. Jude’s and the NIH, we had three years with Kaylee rather than six months.”

“Everyone who has kidney cancer in their family should get genetic testing,” Kim advises. “Children are being tested as young as 8 years old now. A simple blood or saliva test is all it takes; early detection is lifesaving.”

“Kaylee was an artist in every way,” Kim adds. “She drew and painted and loved the artistry of makeup, she was self-taught watching YouTube videos. Even at the Harry Styles concert people would stop her in her wheelchair to compliment her makeup.” That concert is one of Kim’s favorite memories of Kaylee. “Harry Styles caught one of Kaylee’s t-shirts with a note in it and started singing the song to her.

The look of excitement on her face and tears of joy rolling down her cheeks is a moment I will never forget. She always said his songs helped her through chemo.

Kaylee’s “golden birthday” will be celebrated: She would have been 21 on Feb. 21.

It meant so much to her and me to see the connection he made with her that night.”

“I called her my old soul,” Kim says of her daughter. “She loved reading and history and everything vintage. She loved traditions, especially those that included family. Every September, on the anniversary of her death, we plan to have a ticketed event, a themed party like the 70s or 80s, with proceeds going to research. Kaylee loved to help people; she gave to St. Jude’s every month.”

For more information about the Celebration of Life for Kaylee René Campbell, join Prayers for Kaylee Campbell on Facebook.


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